Sunday, November 13, 2011
Britannia Mine Museum
On our way home from Whistler, we stopped to check out the Britannia Mine Museum just south of Squamish. Britannia was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire, producing more than 50 million tons of ore during its operation from 1904 to 1974. There are over 210 km of tunnel around Britiannia. We rode a mine train into a historical tunnel to see where and how miners worked back in the day...
Up to 12 men would cramp in a man car and travel up to 45 minutes to get to work. It also served as the lunch room if the work location was very wet.
Muck was rock that was blasted free. This machine could move 16 to 20 tons of rock an hour. Before it came to Britannia in the early 1920's, two miners could move the same amount of muck using "muck sticks", i.e. shovels, in a 12-hour shift.
This super heavy Wood Drill was the first drill to run on compressed air. It made an aweful noise that caused miners to go deaf, and the rock dust it produced could scar the lungs and lead to silicosis, a fatal disease. Hence the apt nickname.
How would you like to roll this lovely wagon to every miner twice during each 8-hour shift? No doors, no toilet paper. Well, at least it was dark in the mine. A surely quick way to get the new workers assigned to the job to meet everyone and figure out the mine layout!
Our tour guide gave us an introduction to the "concentrating" process of separating minerals from the waste rock or "tailings". This pioneering system was developed at Britannia and gave a very high metal recovery rate.